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Wednesday, 18 September 2019
Page: 3561


Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (16:54): It's interesting that the minister would try to talk about peace in the Middle East when he can't even get peace in the National Party. Maybe start a little smaller, Minister! You've had the federal council make the decision it has, and you are well aware of it. But I might also say that, in terms of the question of the inspector-general, the minister seems to have acknowledged that, in the absence of legislation, the inspector-general has no statutory authority and has no statutory powers. In other words, he doesn't have a tough cop on the beat. What he has is someone who lacks statutory powers. For an announcement that has been in train 'for months', it seems to be very, very underdone.

Of course the minister ought to be consulting in relation to the powers, but he also ought to get his skates on, because he gave this release on 1 August and still no draft legislation has been provided for consideration. As he well knows, the inspector-general requires statutory powers to become a tough cop on the beat. We all want to see a tough cop on the beat. The question is: when will he have those powers? I also ask the minister: since his release of 1 August indicated that the inspector-general would, in his capacity as a tough cop on the beat, be able to refer issues to the Commonwealth Integrity Commission, once it's established, given that the government has not yet tabled legislation to establish the Commonwealth Integrity Commission and given that we therefore do not even know what jurisdiction the commission will have to investigate misconduct in the basin and given the government's recent decision to vote against legislation seeking to establish the Commonwealth Integrity Commission and, Minister, given your release indicates that your inspector-general appointment will be—

Mr Tudge interjecting

Ms BUTLER: Well, you referred especially to the Commonwealth Integrity Commission; it's a quote from your own release, Minister. When will the bill to establish the Commonwealth Integrity Commission be tabled in the parliament and what jurisdiction does the government expect the Commonwealth Integrity Commission to have in relation to allegations of misconduct made in connection with the basin? I ask the minister those questions on the basis of his own media release, in which he referred to that commission being established. Minister, in relation to the question of the Commonwealth Integrity Commission, when can we expect to see the bill tabled in the parliament? In relation to the inspector-general, when can we expect to see a bill tabled that will confer, finally, some actual statutory powers on the inspector-general?

The minister referred to the issue of science and the basin, and the minister would agree, I'm sure, that tested, peer reviewed, independent science is at the heart of solutions in the basin. I ask this question because climate change is a significant issue. It's a driver of water availability, and water availability is very important in the context of this policy area. Despite the minister's subsequent assertion in the House, why did the minister recently and very clearly, in two separate interviews with separate media outlets, state that he didn't know whether man-made climate change was real? This is an important issue. If we've got a water minister who doesn't believe in man-made climate change, I could see why he'd be defensive about these questions. I could see why he wouldn't want to be asked these questions. If he is on two different media outlets denying that man-made climate change is real or maybe just saying he doesn't even know—'I don't know if it's real or not'—that's a relevant question that can be put to the minister.

Honourable members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Zimmerman ): Order! The minister and the member for Ballarat will contain themselves.

Ms BUTLER: Ultimately, Minister, you can have your own opinions, but you can't have your own facts. Basin communities and communities across this country can't afford to see science devolve into a separate political science with separate facts tailored to sectional interests. We need genuine scientific inspection of these issues and we need a minister who actually puts science and facts at the centre of the discussions about climate change.

I note that the minister said that he ended the shouting with the state governments. Why, in that case, when this government has failed to provide the national leadership required to ensure water security, has the minister been all over the news recently, pointing as many fingers as he possibly can to blame state governments collectively for a lack of water security?

Mr Tudge interjecting

Ms BUTLER: Well, I was talking about water security. If you were talking about ending the shouting with state governments, Minister, I think the question about why you are now pointing fingers as much as you can at every state government you can think of to blame them in relation to the issue of water security is relevant. The minister is obviously now trying to deflect attention from his own lack of action. (Time expired)